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Crisis incident crisis: 99% of handcuffed students are minorities

If you're concerned that New York City maintains essentially a school-to-prison pipeline, you'll be alarmed by these numbers on how our kids are treated by police in school. These are statistics required by 2015 amendments to the city's Student Safety Act which were published by the New York Civil Liberties Union.

In 2016, 99 percent of students handcuffed in child-in-crisis incident were Black or Hispanic

A "child in crisis incident" is when a student is emotionally distressed enough to be removed from class and taken for a psychological evaluation at a hospital. This sometimes involves handcuffing the student. Last year, there were 262 child-in-crisis incidents with handcuffs, and all but three of them involved a Black or Hispanic student.

These shockingly stark statistics come to us via the New York Daily News, which notes that this is the first available data on school police activity. Black and Hispanic students make up 27 percent and 41 percent of all students in the city, or a total of 68 percent, assuming no overlap. It has been noted before that minorities do not commit more crimes than their white peers, but they are arrested, charged, convicted and sentenced at higher rates than whites. Still, 99 percent is a startling number.

"It's racist," said one 15-year-old Hispanic student interviewed by the Daily News. "It's horrible we're still going through things like this as a people. It shouldn't be this way."

"When a child is handcuffed, the child is humiliated," says the head of the NYCLU. "It's incompatible with the safe and supportive learning environment a school is supposed to provide."

Are school safety officers out of control? Civilians complain

In addition to the child-in-crisis incidents, the NYCLU also analyzed school safety officer incidents generally. There were 208 civilian complaints against school officers last year:

  • Excessive use of force: 89
  • Abuse of authority: 15
  • Offensive language: 17
  • Discourtesy: 87

A spokesperson for the NYPD said they are working on reducing arrests at schools -- and that they only use restraints in rare circumstances.

"Crime in schools is at an all-time low," said a spokesperson for the Department of Education and, indeed, police actions in schools are on the decline overall. "We're continuing to invest in and expand critical school climate and mental health initiatives."

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